By Banri Hidaka. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Tokyopop.
It's something of a surprise that we're 11 volumes in before we finally get a good, long look at what drives Mitsuya Kuromine. He is, after all, one of the main protagonists, introduced in Chapter 1. But for all that, we really knew very little about him beyond the fight with his brother we saw in the earliest volumes. So even though it means yet another flashback in a series that seems fairly drenched in them, I was pleased to be able to finally get a handle on Mitsuya's machinations.
Well, mostly. Mitsuya is still fairly difficult to understand, though certainly we see in the flashback that he is a young man who is simply moving through life with no direction. This, of course, is what leads him to bond with Yukari so strongly, which in turn leads him to the pattern-making that becomes his purpose. However, the flashback is really to introduce us to how Mitsuya met Yukari, and how they began to define their peculiar friendship. It's played up deliberately like a BL comic, something noted several times by Ageha, with Yukari in the uke role. (It is rather startling to see Yukari so short in high school - most shoujo heroes tend towards the tall, and clearly he later shot up to at least be taller than Ageha.)
Oddly, Mitsuya's flashback begins AFTER the traumatic event that defined his 'uncaring' attitude, so we need another mini-flashback from Tsuyu to go over those details. It doesn't really tell us anything we couldn't have guessed - Tsuyu had a horrible upbringing leaving her with a sense of zero self-worth, and this led her to reject Mitsuya, which affected them both far more than they expected. How they deal with it is also reflected in their personalities - Mitsuya has continued to tease Tsuyu like the 12-year-old he was when this all happened, whereas Tsuyu runs away from him in denial and self-hatred.
This leads to the climax of this volume, where it's revealed that Tsuyu is going to be running away for good, and has allowed her family to set up an omiai for her. Given that she's getting near 25, this is not particularly surprising - Japan may not have as many arranged marriages as it once did, but it still has them quite a bit. This also does lead to Ahega acting like a hothead and belting Mitsuya - after mellowing out once she and Yukari got together, it was nice to see her quick temper returning. Less nice was the cliffhanger collapse by Mitsuya, who is fighting a cold - cliffhanger chapter endings are not really one of Banri Hidaka's strengths, and this one in particular seemed very forced.
Still, we should finally be beyond all the flashbacks, and I expect the next three volumes will be taken up by tying up all the plotlines in a neat bow. Starting, no doubt, with Mitsuya and Tsuru, which I'm fairly sure will take up the majority of Volume 12.